To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the Government's announcement New major package to support online learning announced on 19 April 2020, what plans his Department has to extend the digital support package to university students for (a) free laptops and (b) access to 4G internet routers, to ensure that digitally excluded university students are able to continue their studies throughout the covid-19 pandemic.
Higher Education (HE) providers take their responsibilities seriously and are best placed to identify the needs of their student body as well as how to develop the services needed to support it. When making changes to the delivery of their courses, providers need to consider how they support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes. Where students do not have access to the Internet, a computer at home or cannot afford to purchase it, the expectation is that HE providers will provide support through their own hardship funds.
The government has worked closely with the Office for Students to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for June and July, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.